Refugees and evacuees in India during WW2

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During the War of 1939-45, the Government of India set up an organisation in India, at the request of the United Kingdom Government, to care for civilian personnel from Poland, the Baltic States, Greece, Malta and other countries who had been sent to India from their home countries because of hosilities. Camps were built and large staffs recruited to deal with the many thousands of evacuees... As the war progressed, those evacuees were joined by refugees from Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong and elsewhere... For some period after the termination of hostilities, some of the camps were also used by civilian internees, released from other countries in the Far East, while waiting to return home. The process of winding up was naturally slow, and the camps were not closed finally until 1950.[1]

There are also references to refugees who were Yugoslavs, Free French, British subjects from all over Middle East,[2] and from Singapore. [3]


British Library

University of Cambridge

  • The Barlow (HANB) Papers (H.A.N. Barlow, O.B.E.) include the following catalogue references (Box 3)
    • 3.164, 12.1.1941. Takes over new section - including the reception and accommodation of evacuees and refugees.
    • 3.182. 18.5.1941. His immediate superior, Mr. Frampton, in Bombay arranging reception for evacuees from Iraq.
    • 3.188. 29.6.1941. Refugees to India include Greeks, Yugoslavs, Maltese, Free French, British subjects from all over Middle East. [4]


  • The Polish Refugees’ Camp was at Valivade in Kolhapur State, Bombay Presidency
  • The Polish Children’s Camp was at Balachadi, near Jamnagar on the Kathiawar Peninsula, Bombay Presidency
For further information about these two camps see Polish Refugees in India 1942-1948
  • Anglo-Burmese refugees were accommodated in Nainital,[5] and in an evacuee camp at Saharanpur[6]
  • Maltese refugees were accommodated at Satara[7]
  • Maltese-Balkan refugees were accommodated at a camp at Sewar, near Bharatpur, which was later moved to Coimbatore[5]
  • British Evacuee Camp, Coimbatore
"Coimbatore played an important role during the World War II. Coimbatore hosted an evacuees camp accommodating about 3,000 British refugees during the period from 1941 to 1945. For this purpose the then British Government closed down the Madras Forest College and cleared several acres of forest land, West of the College. Initially they put thousands of tents in the open area across the Tadagam Road to accommodate the British refugees mostly from their European Colonies like Malta and other islands. Then rows after rows of small tenements were built for them in the space cleared in the Forest College Campus. Of course initially this area was out of bounds for civilians in the Town. It was a novel experience for us to see groups of white skinned families cycling in our R.S.Puram area. Most of them were refugees from Malta and Greece. There were a few families of Anglo-Burmese stationed there.
Incidentally the first town bus service in Coimbatore was commenced during this period only. Two buses were introduced to run between the British Evacuees Camp and the Bazaar area and Cinema Halls on regular duration. These Buses were run only for the use of the refugees and civilian population in the Town were not allowed to use these Buses. Only interaction between the people of Town and the Evacuvees is Football matches between the evacuvees team and the Local team. Though BEC inmates confined themselves to the activities within their camp area, it is not uncommon to see minor frictions between the locals and inmates. Some of the inmates from of the Camp were enterprising people. A few of them from Malta and Burma studied Book keeping and Accountancy under my father, who was a Chartered Accountant.
This camp was closed in 1945 after the end of the War and the refugees returned to their home lands".[8]
Some comments about the Evacuee Camp
  • After trekking to India from Burma, “we were sent to the British Evacuee Camp in Coimbatore, S. India where we spent the war years there - then returned to Burma in 1947 after the war and all evacuees were repatriated back to our respective countries there were people from Burma, Singapore, Greeks and Maltese in that Camp” (by Mrs Gerry O'Connor nee Antram (2011-05-11))
  • “My husband, George Martin, from Athens, Greece, spent his youth in the British Evacuee Camp in Coimbatore. His family was Anglo-Greek and they were evacuated from Athens, Greece. The family returned to Greece after the war” by C C Martin (2011-08-11 and 2013-03-04)
  • ”I was thrilled to find someone who spent the war years in Coimbatore. My mother also. She was an evacuee from Singapore and was pregnant with my brother” by Errol Neubronner (2012-02-05)[3]


  1. Relief of Distress: World War II Refugees and Evacuees, Ex-Internees and Distressed Europeans in India IOR/L/AG/40
  2. Barlow Papers at the University of Cambridge
  3. 3.0 3.1 Comments at the bottom of the article Barefoot from Burma to India, 1942 by Benegal Dinker Rao, born 1917 in Rangoon
  4. List of Papers, letter B scroll down to the Barlow Papers. Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge
  5. 5.0 5.1 Page 167 The Second Homeland: Polish Refugees in India by Anuradha Battacharjee
  6. Email information sent to User:Maureene in 2012. Percival Norman Metcalfe left Rangoon when the Japanese invaded Burma, and eventually ended up in the Evacuee Camp in Seharanpore (sic] (about 65 miles north of Delhi). He died there in 1944.
  7. Page 114 The Second Homeland: Polish Refugees in India by Anuradha Battacharjee
  8. Down Memory Lane - My Coimbatore by Brahmanyan November 09, 2007